There are many incredible organizations helping children in our valley, WindWalkers is one of them. Located on a beautiful ranch in Missouri Heights where sage brush infuses the Colorado air, Windwalkers is an equine assisted learning and therapy center where individuals with challenges, be they physical, neurological, emotional, behavioral or psychological, partake in therapeutic activities with horses to achieve goals they never thought were possible.
While sitting astride a horse, a rider with a disability is not only gaining confidence and self-esteem while controlling such a magnificent animal, but they are reaping the many benefits that the unique movement of the horse provides. Ambulation, speech, improved range of motion, and improved muscle tone are just a few little miracles that happen at WindWalkers.
Windwalkers is an organization where patients challenged with everything from cerebral palsy and autism, to drug and alcohol dependency and post traumatic stress syndrome, receive equine assisted therapy. What this means is that horses are matched with children and adults who have physical, emotional, behavioral, and neurological disorders and through this therapy startling results occur. Individuals with challenges often struggle to communicate – but put them with horses and they can achieve so much, because it seems more like fun than therapy. The childlike awe and the widening of the eyes when a client sees, and touches, their horse for the first time is beautiful to observe.
While there is little controlled research on the subject, progress notes from physical therapists, as well as reports from physicians, teachers and parents, testify to its benefits. These include improved balance, muscle strength, self-confidence, interpersonal skills and agility. The impact on everyone who participates in equine assisted activities is visible from their infectious smiles and laughter that occurs daily.
Since 2005, volunteers and staff at WindWalkers work 6 days a week, 12 months out of the year and have had an unwavering commitment to those with challenges in the Roaring Fork Valley, helping to improve the physical well-being, behavioral development and emotional health of clients, their families and the communities.
Therapy takes 3 people to take one client out, two side-walkers and one leading the horse. Not everyone needs that much help, but it does require a dedicated experienced group of volunteers, an instructor and our four-legged companion. And, in some cases there may be three to five clients riding at one time, so the profound commitment from volunteers and staff is impressive.
Currently, there are 15 full time horses willing to let clients climb up on their backs, groom them, or just be with them. We call the horses the doctors, the healers, the modality treatment – our friends!
Clients have become more outgoing and children with autism have been known to communicate spontaneously for the first time with a horse. Often students enjoy an independence they never thought would be available to them. While on a horse, they’re able to leave the bonds of their disabilities behind. They become an explorer from the back of their horse. They’re free!
As Aspen Times writer Tony Vagneur described it, “ Whether bound to a wheelchair, locked inside emotionally or anywhere else on a scale of troubled children, these kids and adults, once abroad their horses, are truly walking with the wind, with a feeling deep inside that must be akin to the thrill of birds on the wing.”
Become a sponsor of Windwalker’s 5th Annual Benefit Horse Show being held at Strang Ranch on June 23rd– 26th (Friday- Sunday). The annual benefit horse show is one of our major fund-raisers that contributes toward operating costs directly. The deadline for sponsorships is May 30th, 2017.
Become a volunteer. Become part of the solution for a healthier individual and community. Make a donation of any size online or simply call and talk to a two-legged staff member at 970-963-2909 or visit windwalkerstrc.org. Make someone’s day by “keeping butts in the saddle and feedbags full” act now!
Lower your blood pressure, lower your stress levels reduce feelings of tension, anxiety and anger. Replace them with feelings of empowerment, patience, trust and higher self-esteem, at WindWalkers.
WindWalkers is a not for profit, 501c3 organization. For questions contact Gabrielle or Mary Jane at (970) 963-2909